NOBODY LISTENS TO TURTLE The John Philbin Interview
“Nobody listens to Turtle.” Well, Turtle, we’re all ears. Anyone who’s seen the 1987 film, North Shore, can almost certainly spew a quote from Hawaii’s most lovable surfboard glasser, Turtle. It appears his pidgen-laden lines have survived the last 20 years and cemented his character as an iconic figure within popular surf culture.
Now, Turtle goes by his real name, John Philbin. Behind the camera, Philbin has taught actors how to walk the walk, talk the talk, and wax the top of a board. Most notably, he transformed Kate Bosworth from an East Coast equestrienne into a believable surfer girl for Blue Crush.
Philbin has had a full career, as both a surfer who acts and an actor who surfs, but he wouldn’t mind a little more. After teaching a surf lesson in Malibu, Philbin stopped at the Cross Creek “Starstrucks” (the Starbucks nicknamed for celebrity sightings) for a chat about what’s happening where Hollywood meets the surf.
You were in North Shore? What role?
I was Turtle, the surfboard sander who…
You were Turtle? I love Entourage!
Hardy har har. Truthfully, I cringe when I watch Entourage, because in another lifetime, I was hanging around in Hollywood, living off my rich and famous friends, and so I was part of an entourage with Eric Stolz and George Clooney. These were great, generous guys and then one day I woke up and realized I had to work for a living. That’s when I started teaching surfing.
You think the writers of Entourage stole your name?
No. Turtle on Entourage is nothing like Turtle on North Shore, and Turtle was not my name. Turtle was based on this kid, Brian King, who lived on the North Shore and still lives there. He is Turtle.
That was his real nickname?
Yeah. He goes by Turtle. That was his name and his character, and I just kind of played him. Now that name and character have taken on an existence beyond me and him or anybody. He makes cool boards on the North Shore; a real artist and surfer and craftsman.
So you were Turtle in North Shore and the bank robber in the Jimmy Carter mask in Point Break.
Yes, in Point Break, Turtle got shot and killed by Gary “The Masochist” Busey, from Big Wednesday.
The Coconut Wireless is humming with rumors of sequels.
Yes they are flitting around on the Internet. I am working on the sequel to North Shore with Randall Kleiser. Peter Iliff, is writing and going to direct a sequel to Point Break. He’s going to get as many people from the original as he can.
What do you know about North Shore 2?
I just want the sequel to be a guy from a wave park, just like the original, but wave parks are much better now, as you know. This guy is incredibly talented and skilled. He meets the Pipeline Posse at a wave park and beats them and wins a trip to the North Shore and a wild card into the Pipe Masters – which is the typical sports drama: He would fall in love with a local girl, get in a fight, he would have to learn how to handle big waves and get hassled by the locals. Makua Rothman was in the original North Shore as a baby in the arms of Chandler’s wife. Now he is a big-wave charging gnarly prince of the North Shore. There is a Wolfpack, a Pipeline Posse, a Hui that still exists and is still doing similar activities. I just think it’s ripe for drama. Same story, but it’s just nowadays.
John Philbin’s actor’s reel